Tag Archives: George Leventhal

Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

The May campaign finance reports are in and we will start breaking them down with the County Executive race.  A note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the County Executive candidates.

Council Member Roger Berliner (whom your author supports) is the leader in money raised other than self-funding and also in cash on hand.  He is closing in on a million dollars raised for the race, which was roughly Ike Leggett’s total in 2006.  He has enough money to be heard in the final month.

Council Member Marc Elrich is the leader among the publicly financed candidates.  His total raised of $745,352 is almost five times what he raised in his 2014 council race when public financing was not yet available.  Elrich has a long history of vastly outperforming his fundraising because of his large and loyal base of supporters, some of whom have been with him for decades.  With more than $400,000 to spend in the final month, he won’t blow anyone out, but he can combine that with a grass-roots field program to finish strong.

Businessman David Blair is going to break Steve Silverman’s fundraising record in 2006 with more than $2 million.  The difference is that Silverman raised his money from the business community while Blair is mostly a self-funder.  Blair’s self-financing of $1.9 million sends a message that he is deadly serious about winning.  He is the strongest of the outsider candidates.

Council Member George Leventhal will get votes because of his longevity, name recognition and sheer hard work in the campaign cycle.  (His brilliant Avengers-themed video could get some votes too!)  But he doesn’t have enough resources to make a big push at the end.

Former Mayor of Rockville Rose Krasnow is a substantive and knowledgeable candidate who impresses those she meets.  But she made two big mistakes in this campaign: getting in late and using public financing.  Those mistakes reinforce each other.  If she had gotten in early, she might have been able to raise enough in public financing to compete with the totals accumulated by Elrich and Leventhal.  Since she did get in late, traditional financing offered a better option to raise money in a hurry.  Now she is in the same situation as Leventhal and Bill Frick: struggling to make a final push.

Your author likes Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) a lot personally but he doesn’t have the resources to make his case.  We wish Frick had stayed in the House of Delegates and plotted a course to succeed his former district mate, Brian Frosh, as Attorney General.  The path not taken will be harder now.

Republican Robin Ficker has applied for public financing, but as of this writing, we don’t know whether he will receive it.

Overall, there are two competing narratives among those who are really focused on this race – admittedly, a minority of the voters.  First, there is the view that the county should be more progressive.  It should be bolder about closing the achievement gap, do more to help vulnerable residents (including renters), institute tougher environmental protections and push back against the influence of developers and big businesses.  People with that perspective are mostly rallying behind Elrich, who is the overwhelming choice of progressive endorsing organizations.

Then there is the narrative advanced by your author’s writings on the county budget and the economy, the Washington Post’s endorsement editorials and the now-famous report by Sage Policy Group: to pay for progressive priorities, the county needs a stronger tax base.  That message plays more to the outsider candidates, especially Blair, who put it in a recent mailer.  But there’s no reason why Berliner and Leventhal shouldn’t embrace that perspective too.

It’s important to recognize that these views are not mutually exclusive.  Not all progressives are skeptical of economic growth.  And not all people who would like to see a stronger economy oppose spending the resulting revenue on progressive priorities.  But the two messages contain differences in emphasis and differences in potential for attracting blocs of voters.  Both of them represent change in some form, implying that running on resume and experience won’t be enough in this cycle – at least not in the Executive contest.  Everyone needs to pick a path forward to win.

Next: the Council At-Large race.

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The Not Marcs

Marc Elrich has cornered the progressive market in the county executive race. He has scooped up the lion’s share of endorsements from progressive groups and unions, and stands out as the most left-wing candidate in the race. Marc’s civic activism around the county has also won him a great many fans.

As Adam outlined yesterday, the challenge for the other candidates is to emerge as the alternative. Who is best positioned to do this?

Roger Berliner is probably the best County establishment candidate. After several terms on the Council, he has compiled a highly marketable record of leadership on environmental issues, especially for voters who are more concerned about climate change than economic equality. We’re a wealthy county, so even in a Democratic primary, there are lot of these voters.

Roger’s challenge is building a larger coalition is his record on business concerns. He has steered a middle course on these issues, which may be where many county voters are, but impedes him being a convincing champion of business or change. Roger is doing his best to make the case that he’s the person to lead on innovation and reinventing county government but it’s a hard sell for a multi-term councilmember.

George Leventhal’s comments on Facebook after the recent business forum reporting that he hears complaints about too much and too little growth from different people pretty much capture it all. Candidates simply cannot come across as annoyed with voters. What do those people want anyway?

Even more bizarre was George’s comment at the forum: “Democracy is not a spectator sport. If the business community wants to be heard, you have to speak to us.” Really? After 16 years on the Council, you have no idea what the business community thinks? They have lobbyists and are often highly engaged with the process. Politics is about addition, not subtraction.

Rose Krasnow has some clear strengths in the race. She’s the only female candidate in the #metoo election, though sometimes she sells it a little too hard. Her time as Mayor of Rockville, working on Wall Street, and as a senior staffer at the Planning Board allow her to make a very convincing case that she has the experience to lead the county in a new direction. The Planning Board is a great place to meet a lot of leaders around the county, especially in the not always popular but well-funded development community.

While Democrats are often not too keen on Wall Street, Rose’s real problem, ironically, is her identification with the Planning Board. It’s like flypaper for all the problems in the county and almost worse than being an incumbent when voters are in a mood to shake things up. Too much traffic? Too many portable classrooms? Blame the Planning Board. It may not always be fair (or unfair) but if you want fair, politics is the wrong line of work.

Businessman David Blair is certainly making a splash around the county. He’s already on TV and sending out mail, giving him profile among county voters as a sunny guy in a way that resembles David Trone’s last congressional bid. Empower Montgomery, which he helped found, seems ready to launch an independent expenditure campaign on his behalf.

If he spends enough, he could well become the not Marc. Of course, he’s going to have to compete with David Trone who will also be filling our airwaves. There is also the question of how many rich businessmen do Democrats want to elevate in the days of Trump. Still, I’ve heard positive feedback from some about his business plans, though his press interviews have at times demonstrated a lack of fluency with issues or government. Could this stall his campaign once he faces greater scrutiny?

Last but not least, Delegate Bill Frick is an interesting candidate. Although he’s an elected official, he is not associated with county government, so doesn’t carry their baggage. In short, he manages to combine appealing experience without the blame – a combo that worked rather well for former Rockville Mayor Doug Duncan. As someone widely seen as smart and a good, often passionate speaker, he ought to be an appealing candidate.

So far, however, his campaign has yet to catch fire. Insiders ding him for switching races but I seriously doubt voters know or care. He needs an issue and the county’s strongly disliked liquor monopoly looks like a good target notwithstanding the mud MCGEO has thrown at him. Frick needs convince voters, donors and opinion leaders opposed to Marc that he is best positioned to unite an alternative coalition to renovate county government. He has a good case.

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The Executive Contest is a Two-Candidate Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post recently published an article declaring that the contest to succeed County Executive Ike Leggett was seen as “anybody’s race.”  Pshaw!  One of two candidates will win it.  One of them is Council Member Marc Elrich, who finished first in the last two Council At-Large primaries and is nearly sweeping progressive endorsements.  The other is…

We don’t know yet.  And we don’t know if we ever will.

During the 2016 Congressional District 8 race, your author called up one of the smartest people in state politics we know.  This fellow lives outside MoCo but he tracks all parts of the state and has sources everywhere.  When we asked him who was going to win, he said, “When I talk to the various campaigns, all of them say they’re gonna be the last one at the end along with Jamie Raskin.  When I hear that over and over, when I see that they all think that Jamie is the man to beat, that leads me to think Jamie will win.”  That dynamic is going on now in the Executive race.

Elrich’s long-time message combining opposition to development with far-left progressivism has earned him an overlapping base of land-use voters, liberals and Downcounty residents, especially in and near Takoma Park, where he served 19 years on the City Council.  In the 2014 Council At-Large race, Elrich finished first in every council district except 2 (where he finished second to Nancy Floreen) and first or second in every local area in the county except Damascus and Laytonsville.  He finished first in 138 of 251 precincts.  In the 2010 Council At-Large race, Elrich finished first in all five council districts and in every local area in the county except Cabin John, Damascus, Darnestown and Laytonsville.  He finished first in 166 of 243 precincts.  No other MoCo politician running for county office in this cycle has a base of this kind.

How did he assemble it?  For many years, Elrich has been assisting residents who oppose master plans all over the county.  And whether they won or lost, those development opponents came away from the fight with Elrich as their hero.  Here is an illustration: an email sent out by the East Bethesda Citizens Association on 6/2/16, on the eve of the council’s consideration of the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan, describing their meeting with Elrich and calling for action:

A year later, Elrich cast the lone vote against that master plan as he has with several other plans.  This plan’s opponents have now been incorporated into Elrich’s base – assuming they were not part of it already.

While other candidates struggle to attract volunteers, Elrich’s volunteer base is well established.  In 2014, the campaigns of Elrich and his ally, Beth Daly, posted poll coverage sign-ups on Signupgenius.com.  They were able to recruit coverage on 67 precincts, many on more than one shift, with particular strength in the voter-rich areas of Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Leisure World.  No one other than the Apple Ballot could touch this.  Now that he is running for the county’s highest office, how many precincts will Elrich be able to cover?

Among the influencers and highly informed activists, this election is rapidly becoming defined by whether you’re with Elrich or not.  If you don’t believe us, check out the Council District 1 candidates.  They’re an interesting group that collectively spans the differences of opinions in the county district containing the most Democrats.  Bethesda Magazine reporter Andrew Metcalf asked them during a recent debate for whom each was going to vote in the Executive election.  After significant prodding, here’s how the candidates responded:

Bill Cook – would vote for Marc Elrich

Pete Fosselman – undecided; wouldn’t vote for Elrich

Andrew Friedson – undecided; disinclined to vote for Elrich

Ana Sol Gutierrez – torn between Elrich and George Leventhal

Jim McGee – would probably vote for Elrich

Reggie Oldak – refused to say; would not vote for Elrich

Dalbin Osorio – would vote for Elrich

Meredith Wellington – undecided

All of the non-Elrich candidates have potential as well as challenges.  Council Members Roger Berliner and George Leventhal are running on their experience and qualifications.  (Disclosure: your author respects both but supports Berliner.)  Berliner is trying to get known outside his council district and Leventhal has been severely out-polled by Elrich in the last two elections.  Delegate Bill Frick, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow and businessman David Blair are the fresh faces.  But they are little-known in most parts of the county and Blair started as a complete unknown.  All of these candidates have a long way to go and each of them is in the others’ way.

To contrast with Elrich effectively, a non-Elrich candidate needs to hit this sweet spot dead-on: “We live in a great county, but we can be even better.  Here are some ways we can improve.”  That involves a bit of threading the needle for the two council incumbents.  It’s understandable that they might react to critiques of the county’s economic performance as criticism of their records, but they should think of it like this: every Executive leaves unfinished business for the next Executive.  Ike Leggett inherited his share of problems from Doug Duncan, who in turn inherited some issues from Neal Potter.  This is entirely normal, so who is the best choice to lead in the future?  As for the non-incumbents, they aggressively point to the need to improve, but they tend not to have many specific proposals to get better because they don’t know the history and operations of county government as well as the two Council Members.  To be fair, how could they?  If no one hits this sweet spot, that leaves Elrich as the only candidate with a crystal-clear message that is distinct from the others.  Those who hear Elrich’s message and agree with it are less likely to peel off to someone else than tentative supporters of the other candidates who might change their preferences between them.

One more thing: we wouldn’t be surprised if most, if not all, of the non-Elrich candidates have polled.  If so, they all probably found similar results.  And so they could all tailor their messages in similar ways and maybe even say the exact same things.  That would blur the differences between them and make Elrich stand out even more.  This may already be happening as Berliner, Blair and Frick all repeatedly mentioned “innovation” at last Friday’s Executive forum.  Was that a coincidence?

If questioned privately, we bet all of the non-Elrich candidates would grudgingly admit that it’s a problem that five of them are in the race.  Each of them wants to be the person who gets to take on Elrich one-on-one.  So each of the five is looking at the others and saying, “If YOU all get out of the way, I can beat Elrich.”  But no one is dropping out because they all think they have a shot.  The big winner from this is – you guessed it – Marc Elrich.

One non-Elrich candidate needs to emerge from the pack and consolidate everyone that is not in Elrich’s camp.  If that happens, Elrich is beatable.  But if nothing changes and this election continues down the path it is on, Elrich will win with less than 40% of the vote.

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Executive Candidates React to Sage Consulting Report on MoCo Economy

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last Friday, the candidates for County Executive attended a forum to discuss a report by Sage Consulting listing numerous problems with the county’s economy.  Afterwards, most of the Executive candidates commented on the report and on the economy more generally via email and social media.  Their responses say a lot about which ones take the economy seriously, an issue that has drawn much attention from Seventh State.

Council Member Roger Berliner (whom your author supports) sent out this email over the weekend.

Our county has serious work to do to improve our business climate, diversify our economy, and increase the number of good jobs. It must be Priority #1 if we are going to be able to meet the needs of our school system, reduce congestion, invest in public safety, and protect our environment.

I have a record that I am proud of on improving our economy and a vision for our future that you can read about here. Some of my competitors have records too. Others have just words. It’s important to consider what we have done in pursuit of increasing prosperity, not just what we say we will do.

My record includes leading the successful effort to reduce our energy tax three years in a row; creating the small business navigator and a micro-loan program to help our local small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive; and playing a leading role in our Amazon bid. My vision is of a forward leaning county that embraces innovation, education geared towards the jobs of tomorrow, and vibrant urban centers served by state-of-the-art transit.

Yesterday, a consultant tasked with assessing our business climate and outlook, issued a scathing report. It highlighted one startling statistic: that “between 2011 and 2016, the number of [business] establishments in Montgomery County increased by 6, or roughly the population of businesses at a strip mall.” The report concludes that “Montgomery County therefore desperately needs to step up efforts to expand its commercial tax base.” You will get no debate from me on that point.

At the same time, the report declares:

This should not be mistaken for an assertion that Montgomery County is anything other than the finest possible location for Amazon HQ2. It will be difficult for Amazon to identify an area that is as open to new ideas, offers such abundant human capital, is as saturated with transportation options, supports such high quality public education, is as institutionally rich, and is as committed to shared prosperity as Montgomery County, MD.

So, while it is true that we have our challenges, challenges that must be met head-on, it is also true that we have extraordinary assets and a quality of life to match. I will build on our assets as your next County Executive, work diligently to improve our business climate, and am 100% committed to expanding a “shared prosperity.”

Life is good in Montgomery County, but we can make it better still. That’s my goal: a “more perfect” Montgomery County.

In service,

Roger Berliner

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) sent out this email hours after the Executive forum ended.

Something doesn’t add up. How does a county with our talent, our people, our great public schools and our values lag behind the rest of our region in job growth and economic development? How is it that private sector employment has declined by 12,500 jobs from 2006 to 2016? How is it that, during that same time period, Montgomery County created on net just six new businesses?

The answer is clear. As I told the Montgomery County Business Roundtable earlier today, it is our political culture. My opponents have built a political culture in Montgomery County that doesn’t want to work with businesses to thrive and grow here in our County.  And if we elect someone to be County Executive who is part of that culture, things will not get better for business.

I am an outsider to Montgomery County Government and yet I have real governmental leadership experience as the Majority Leader of Maryland’s General Assembly. I have the relationships in Annapolis that can help our County. But since I am not a multi-millionaire, and unlike three of my opponents, I am not spending your taxpayer dollars to fund my campaign, I need your help to communicate with Montgomery County residents who deserve leadership that the current members of the County Council will not provide.

Montgomery County is an awesome place to live. It’s why I’m raising my two children here and sending them to our public schools. But we have a problem, and that is that we must reform in order to create new private sector jobs and increase our tax base. We have to focus on the core functions of county government – education, public safety, and transportation – and those need to be our priorities for our budget. Our County Government does not need to be in the liquor business, a failed venture that is hurting our food culture to the benefit of downtown DC restaurants. We have to have a culture of ‘yes’ in county government so that we are trying to find reasons to say yes to businesses rather than find reasons to say no.

Sincerely,

Bill

Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow ran this Facebook ad.

David Blair commented on Twitter.

Council Member George Leventhal commented on Facebook.

We are not aware of Council Member Marc Elrich commenting via email, Facebook or Twitter.

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Leventhal Poll Shows Wide Open Executive Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member George Leventhal, who is running for County Executive, has released an internal poll from Celinda Lake’s firm showing a wide open race.  The poll surveyed 400 likely voters with a margin of error of 4.9 points.  We reprint the three-page polling memo below and have a few comments following.

 

So what can be gleaned from this?

First, voters aren’t paying attention yet.  No candidate draws more than 11% support in the first run of questions and undecided gets 58%.

Second, the margin of error (4.9 points) matters.  In the first run, that means there is no statistically significant difference between the six candidates.  For example, Bill Frick polls at 2% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.9%.  Marc Elrich polls at 11% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.1%.  In effect, no one is leading.

Third, even with the “engaged communications” part of the poll, Leventhal is still within the margin of error against Elrich.  As for the “final ballot” that shows Leventhal blowing out the rest of the field, it appears to depend on giving respondents additional information on Leventhal and not on the other candidates.  It “simulates Leventhal having a resources and communications advantage” that does not exist.  At the moment, he will be fifth in cash on hand once the latest public matching funds are disbursed.

Could Leventhal win?  Sure, it’s possible.  He is a four-term incumbent, a former chair of the county Democratic Party, has a geographically diverse base of small contributions and is working as hard as any candidate in the county.

But the simulations showing Leventhal leading the field right now reek of spin.  Voters aren’t fully engaged yet and no one other than David Blair has started mailing regularly and going on television.  We believe the poll’s real message, which is that no one has wrapped up this election quite yet.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner.

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Krasnow to Pass Leventhal in Cash Balance

By Adam Pagnucco.

Tracking fundraising for publicly financed candidates is challenging because it is a moving target.  Unlike traditional candidates, who file according to the state’s regular reporting schedule, publicly financed candidates report whenever they ask for public contributions in addition to scheduled filings.  So at any one time, the latest tabulations are snapshots taken at different dates.  With all of that said, the latest reports for County Executive candidates show two things.  First, Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of whom have been involved in local politics for decades, have done very well in public financing.  But second, former Rockville Mayor and planning staffer Rose Krasnow, who started much later than either of them, is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance.

In explaining the above statement, let’s review how to read campaign finance reports.  Candidates in the traditional system report the equivalent of a cash flow statement.  They list a starting cash balance, money coming in, money going out and an ending cash balance.  That’s it.  Publicly financed candidates list those things too, but they also report the amount of new public contributions they are requesting.  Those contributions have not been received and are thus not part of the ending cash balance.  They might show up on the next statement, provided that the state approves the requested contribution and does not change the amount.  (In fact, the state can and does change requested public contributions after reviewing them and even sometimes disqualifies them.)

On March 6, Krasnow reported a cash balance of $41,668 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $245,794.  If those requests are met, her cash balance will be $287,462 (minus any future spending).  On March 20, Leventhal reported a cash balance of $198,585 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $53,500.  If those requests are met, his cash balance will be $252,085 (minus any future spending).  In other words, Krasnow is on pace to have roughly $35,000 more in the bank than Leventhal.

We show the latest financial standings for all seven Executive candidates below.  Note the differences in last date filed.

There are two reasons why Krasnow is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance.  First, she qualified for public funds in 109 days, much faster than either Leventhal (278 days) or Elrich (209 days).  Second, she has not started to spend serious money yet.  Her burn rate (total spent divided by total raised) is just 9%.  Leventhal’s burn rate is 48%, meaning that he has spent almost half the money he has raised.  Leventhal has raised more money than Krasnow and has a much more geographically diverse base of support.  But his decision to spend big early has allowed Krasnow to vault past him in just five months.

Meanwhile, Marc Elrich keeps chugging along.  He is dominating in small contributions from the critical Democratic Crescent area and is cleaning up on progressive endorsements.  He has a base of supporters among progressives, people who oppose development and Downcounty residents who will never abandon him.  So Elrich must be delighted that he is running against five capable candidates who have so far not been able to knock each other out of the race.  As long as all five remain viable, Elrich won’t have to add a lot to his existing base to win.

Disclosure: The author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner for Executive.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

It’s time to start looking at the geography of in-county contributions for the thirteen candidates who have so far qualified for public matching funds: County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal and Council At-Large candidates Gabe Albornoz, Bill Conway, Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Seth Grimes, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Hans Riemer, Mohammad Siddique and Chris Wilhelm.  While all participate in the same system, there are immense differences between them in where they are raising money.

First, an overview.

Long-time Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal lead in public financing fundraising.  But former Rockville Mayor and Planning Department staffer Rose Krasnow is closing on them.  Krasnow qualified for matching funds in 109 days, far faster than Elrich (209 days) and Leventhal (278 days).  All three lead the Council At-Large candidates in total raised primarily because of the higher public matching rate for Executive candidates.  Riemer, Conway and Glass lead the council candidates while Meitiv, Siddique and Grimes trail.  The fact that some candidates last reported two months ago while others reported within the last few weeks will affect this data somewhat.  Including the traditionally funded candidates, Roger Berliner so far leads the Executive candidates while Delegate Charles Barkley is one of the Council At-Large leaders and Ashwani Jain is competitive.

Here’s an important thing to note about public financing: it’s not just about money.  It’s also a cornerstone for a field program.  The same folks who show up at campaign events and bring small checks are the people who can be tapped for neighbor-to-neighbor letters, canvassing, phone banking, lit drops and poll coverage.  The total amount raised is a useful proxy for the number of ardent supporters, so money raised in a local area may be a possible, partial precursor to actual electoral performance.

Now to the three Executive candidates.

Marc Elrich

Elrich is the number one fundraiser in Downtown Silver Spring, Olney and Takoma Park, the latter by a mile.  His contributions have been heavily concentrated in the Democratic Crescent, which accounts for 53% of all in-county contributions and 68% of in-county contributions to Elrich.  This resembles the Downcounty support for Jamie Raskin in his 2016 race for Congress.  That distribution along with Elrich’s number one finish in the last two at-large elections and his many progressive endorsements makes him the front runner in the eyes of most observers.

George Leventhal

Leventhal, a former Chair of the county Democratic Party, has leveraged his more than twenty years in county politics to assemble the most geographically diverse contribution distribution of the Executive candidates.  He is the number one fundraiser in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Montgomery Village.  Leventhal leads Elrich in Upcounty but trails him by a lot in the Democratic Crescent.  Can Leventhal pull enough votes from Midcounty and Upcounty to overwhelm Elrich’s strength in Silver Spring and Takoma Park and break through?

Rose Krasnow

Krasnow was an elected official in Rockville between 1991 and 2001 and she is crushing both Elrich and Leventhal in money raised from the city.  On the other hand, she trails them badly in the Democratic Crescent.  Krasnow is off to a fast start in public financing but she needs more exposure in Downcounty areas like Downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.  Elrich and Leventhal have been working those places for years and time is getting short.

Next, we will start looking at the Council At-Large candidates.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner for Executive.

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Elrich, Krasnow & Leventhal Mix It Up on Racial Equity & Purple Line

The recent county executive debate was fascinating if only for the incoherence brought to it regarding the Purple Line:

Rose Krasnow, deputy director of the county’s planning department and former Democratic Rockville mayor, said the Purple Line “will have wonderful benefits for people along its length. It will raise property values, but it will spur development,” she said. . . .

After Elrich expressed his concern about gentrification that could follow the path of the Purple Line, Leventhal spoke about the benefits the line would bring immigrant workers.

“We should stop frightening people about it, as Mr. Elrich has repeatedly done,” Leventhal said.

“I never said the word ‘destroy’ about the Purple Line,” Elrich responded, noting that his opposition to some of the plans resulted in changes that will preserve hundreds of affordable housing units.

Purple Line advocates have long argued that it will spur new development around Purple Line stations. Indeed, although Metro stops have not resulted in urban nodes similar to Bethesda or Silver Spring near any station in Prince George’s, proponents have faith that the slower moving light-rail Purple Line will nevertheless make it happen.

If they’re correct, the Purple Line will, as Rose Krasnow points out, result in more development and higher property taxes. More generally, if land near Purple Line stations becomes more desirable, its value will increase and so will taxes on it. Generating more tax revenue was a major rationale for the Purple Line.

If a place becomes more desirable and tax rates increase, the cost of renting or buying housing near Purple Line stops will rise and some current residents will find it harder to afford housing. Developers and landlords obviously prefer higher rents — and the Purple Line’s goal is to stimulate investments that will allow them to charge more.

As a result, current residents will gradually be forced out. It can occur when a property is wholly redeveloped so that higher prices can be charged. Alternatively, greater demand will allow landlords to raise rents and sellers to charge more. People who worked hard to buy homes there will gain.

This is not a side effect of the Purple Line. It is the intent of the Purple Line. Indeed, the more successful the Purple Line is achieving economic development, the more it will occur. Notwithstanding all of the social justice blandishments, there is only so much counties can do to stop it.

Nor do they want to do so because they want the tax revenue and it’s the nature of the market. When areas become more desirable, prices rise. This is not meant as an attack on people who leave as abandoning the neighborhood or on people who move in as insensitive gentrification agents. It is simply how the market works.

George Leventhal says “We should stop frightening people about it.” But, as the debate highlighted, change will occur. To the extent that the Purple Line is a transportation boon, and billions are going to be  invested towards that end, it will raise prices and drive current residents out, as it has in Bethesda and increasingly in Silver Spring.

There are a variety of policies one can do to increase the availability of affordable housing more generally. But the Purple Line is not one of them. Marc Elrich, an advocate of the Purple Line and more aggressive efforts to preserve affordable housing near Purple Line stops, explained his view in more detail in a blast email yesterday:

To zero in on an important case that came up at the forum, county officials have too often proposed zoning changes that would displace low-income communities of color. In 2012 and 2013, a Long Branch sector plan that included the upzoning of a very large swath of existing affordable multi-family housing – housing occupied largely by Long Branch’s low-income immigrant community – was brought before the County Council. The plan’s architects intended to tie construction of the Purple Line to new, much more expensive housing developments that would replace the existing affordable housing in that area. Even if 15% of the new units were “MPDUs” (moderately priced dwelling units), which was the best-case scenario, there would have been fewer total affordable housing units available in Long Branch if this plan had been implemented – in other words, less available lower-priced housing for people who need it.

Many of the families living in the existing affordable multi-family homes would not have qualified to live in MPDUs. Some had more family members than most MPDUs would have been able to hold (the proposed plan did not require developers to provide family-sized units). Some families had incomes too low or credit histories too short to qualify. For others, legal status would have been their chief barrier. In addition, the county did not have the resources to provide long-term rental assistance on the scale that would have been required in Long Branch.

In other words, under the Planning Board’s proposal, the current low-income immigrants in Long Branch would have been forced to relocate elsewhere. Since the existing buildings weren’t even an impediment to building the Purple Line, the Planning Board’s recommendations were particularly ill-advised.

When I met with planning staff and their director at the Long Branch shopping center, I told them – forcefully – that their plan was unacceptable.

I am happy to note that, within a week of my meeting, the proposal to rezone the particular properties I had questioned was withdrawn. I was also able to get results when the same process unfolded in two more sector plans and a proposal from the Planning Board to do a mini master plan. But these plans should never have been proposed in the first place. I am convinced they never would have been if we had a racial equity lens in place and were required to show the impacts such plans would have had on the surrounding communities of color.

I’ve been the consistent voice on the County Council speaking out on these issues because I know what the consequences will be if we fail to preserve our existing affordable housing. And as your next County Executive, I would like to make the consideration of racial equity the expectation in all of our policymaking, rather than the exception to the rule.

Put another way, the question is essentially how much power is  county government willing to exercise over developers both in terms of what they can do and what they have to pay. However, it’s also a question of how much tax revenue the county is willing to sacrifice. Happy talk is not the same as action or making the best of not-so-easy choices.

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Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Christmas morning is over and your blogger is done opening the presents – errrrr, campaign finance reports.  Now we get to share them with you!  And we will start by breaking down the Montgomery County Executive race.

Before we start playing with the toys, let’s clear away the wrapping and discuss a few data issues.  Our numbers are different from what you will read in other outlets.  That’s because Seventh State readers are special and we are going to give you only the best!  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Many candidates, particularly in other races we will discuss, have been campaigning for more than a year and we want to capture that.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Total raised does not include in-kind contributions.  Third, for self-financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in cash on hand (which we call adjusted cash balance).  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

And now, we reveal the numbers you all have been craving: the first round of fundraising reports for the seven people running for County Executive.

This is exactly the kind of race Council Member Marc Elrich wants.  He is up against five other candidates, only one of whom has run countywide before, who are nothing like him and cannot steal votes from his progressive and anti-development base.  Better yet, because of public financing, he has the resources to be financially competitive.  (The thought of Elrich with money is almost as strange as the sight of Elrich wearing a suit and tie.)  Elrich has been building a grass roots base for thirty years and he will be able to combine it with substantial labor, progressive and environmental support.  This election is starting to turn into Elrich and a competition to become the non-Elrich alternative.

Council Member Roger Berliner has to feel good about his report.  He leads the field in total raised for the cycle and cash on hand, and also has the lowest burn rate.  Berliner can now start making the case to those who are not inclined to support Elrich that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  Doing that is essential for his path to victory.  (Disclosure: your author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner and has done work for him in the past.)

Businessman David Blair is sometimes compared to fellow businessman David Trone, but he is not using a Trone-like strategy.  When Trone entered the CD8 race last year, he staffed up rapidly and began spending millions on television within weeks.  Accordingly, some observers expected Blair to write himself a million dollar check, putting opponents on notice and perhaps intimidating one or two of them to withdraw.  But while Trone plays to win, Blair looks like he’s playing around.  He gave himself just enough money ($300,000) to equal the formerly penniless Elrich in cash on hand and trail Berliner.  As for private sector fundraising, Berliner has raked in almost three times as much as Blair.  Blair needs to sharpen his message, learn more about the county and show a hunger to win.

Council Member George Leventhal is plenty hungry.  He might be the hardest-working candidate in the race and he clearly believes he’s the best person for the job.  But Leventhal is killing his campaign with his sky-high burn rate (46%), which is more than double the burn rates of Elrich (19%) and Berliner (18%).  Like Berliner, Leventhal needs to show to non-Elrich folks that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  To do that, he needs to tighten up his spending and get some big endorsements – sooner rather than later.

Bill Frick, you know we love you.  We admire your heroism on the liquor monopoly and we appreciate all the great fodder you have given us over the years.  But you showed a cash balance of $150,753 – less than half what Berliner, Elrich and Blair reported.  Why are you doing this, Bill?  We want many more years of you in public office, so please take our advice: stay in the House and run to succeed Brian Frosh as Attorney General when the time comes.  We will help you do it!  We will even write dozens of blog posts just like this one.

Former Planning Department staffer and Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow is an appealing, substantive and competent candidate with fans in both the business and smart growth communities.  The fact that she is the only female candidate running against five men in a Democratic primary electorate that is almost 60% female is a big plus.  Her numbers are not in yet, but she told Bethesda Magazine that she had raised $39,800 from small contributions in the public financing system.  If that’s true, it means she is on pace to qualify for public matching funds much faster than either Elrich or Leventhal did.  Still, we don’t understand why she entered public financing.  It takes a long time to raise money that way and it prevents her from tapping into what could be substantial business support.  Even if she qualifies for matching funds, she could very well trail all the other Democrats in fundraising except maybe Frick.

Republican Robin Ficker appears roughly halfway to qualifying for public matching funds.  That means the county’s most infamous anti-tax activist could wind up campaigning on the public dole.  And all of you MoCo residents will be paying for that!

Next up: the council at-large candidates.

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Public Financing Update: January 2, 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Happy New Year, folks!  After a relatively quiet period in the fall, December saw a number of applications for public matching funds from county candidates participating in public financing.  One of the many positive things about public financing is that when candidates apply for matching funds, they have to file full reports with the State Board of Elections.  That gives data junkies like your author – and Seventh State readers!  – lots of updated data without waiting for the relatively few regular campaign finance reports in the state’s schedule.  The next time all campaign finance reports are due, both from public and traditional accounts, is on January 17.

The candidates below have met the thresholds for matching funds and have applied for those funds from the state.

A few notes.  The column titled “Non-Qualifying Contributions and Loans” refers to loans from candidates and their spouses (up to $12,000 is allowed) and out-of-county contributions, which are allowed but not matched.  The column titled “Adjusted Cash Balance” includes the cash balance in the last report plus the most recent matching funds distribution requested but not yet received.  It is the closest we can approximate the financial position of each campaign at the time they filed their last report.  The column titled “Burn Rate” is the percentage of funds raised that has already been spent.  Generally speaking, candidates should strive to keep their burn rates low early on to save money for mail season.  Mohammad Siddique’s totals are preliminary as there are a few issues in his report that will have to be resolved with the Board of Elections.  And District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro applied for $35,275 in matching funds but cannot receive them unless she gets an opponent.

Below is the number of days each candidate took to qualify for matching funds.  Let’s remember that the thresholds are different: 500 in-county contributors with $40,000 for Executive candidates, 250 in-county contributors with $20,000 for at-large council candidates and 125 in-county contributors with $10,000 for district council candidates.

So what does it all mean?  Here are a few thoughts.

County Executive Race

Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, who are using public financing and running for Executive, have been active in county politics for a long time.  Elrich first joined the Takoma Park City Council in 1987 and has been on the county ballot in every election since.  He has been an elected official for thirty years.  Leventhal worked for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and was the Chair of the county Democrats in the 1990s.  He played a key role in defeating a group of Republican Delegates in District 39 in the 1998 election.  Both of these fellows have built up large networks of supporters over many years and they have done well in public financing, raising similar amounts of money from similar numbers of people.

The difference between them is burn rate.  Leventhal is spending much more money than Elrich early, with some of it going to a three-person staff.  He had better hope this early spending is worth it because if this trend keeps up, Elrich could have almost twice as much money as Leventhal available for mailers in May and June.

At-Large Council Race

One of Council Member Hans Riemer’s advantages as the only incumbent in this race is the ability to raise money, and he has put it to good use in public financing.  Riemer leads in number of contributors and total raised.  He has also maintained a low burn rate.  This is Riemer’s fourth straight county campaign and he knows what he’s doing at election time.  His biggest problem is that his name will be buried near the end of a VERY long ballot.

The five non-incumbents who have qualified for matching funds have raised similar amounts of money so far.  As a group, they are not far behind Riemer.  The one who stands out here is Bill Conway.  Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Chris Wilhelm and Mohammad Siddique all filed in December while Conway last filed in September.  Our bet is that when Conway files next month, he will show four months of additional fundraising that will put him close to Riemer’s total.

That said, the five non-incumbent qualifiers have so far separated themselves from the rest of the field.  Gabe Albornoz and Danielle Meitiv have said they have qualified but have not filed for matching funds with the state.  No other candidates have claimed to qualify.  Raising money in public financing takes a long time and raising a competitive amount (at least $250,000) takes a REALLY long time.  Those at-large candidates who do not qualify soon risk appearing non-viable.

Public Matching Funds Will Be Nowhere Close to $11 Million

The county has so far set aside $11 million to cover the cost of public matching funds.  That appears to be waaaaaay too much with only $1.4 million so far disbursed.  Our guess is that the ultimate total will be less than half what was allocated and will be even lower in the next election cycle with fewer seats open.

Incumbents Have Nothing to Fear From Public Financing

Five council incumbents are using public financing.  All five have qualified for matching funds and have done so fairly easily.  We will see how the challengers stack up, particularly in the at-large race, but so far the only at-large incumbent (Hans Riemer) is leading.  As we predicted last April, public financing is good for incumbents because it allows them to leverage their networks into lots of small individual contributions.  State legislators and other County Councils should take heed.

That’s it for now, folks.  Come back in a couple weeks when all reports, including those from traditional accounts, are due and we’ll put it all together for you!

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